"Commute" in European languages?

AAllan at AOL.COM AAllan at AOL.COM
Wed Jul 3 16:34:33 UTC 2002

Here is the entry for 1865 from _America in So Many Words_ by Allan Metcalf
and David Barnhart (Houghton Mifflin, repr. 1999):

   Americans did not invent the suburbs, but they did create the
commuter--someone who shuttles from a home in the suburbs to a job in the
city and back again every day. Residing at a considerable distance from work
was made possible by the invention of the railroad, and the name for this
kind of person was made possible by the invention in the 1840s of a ticket
good for multiple rides, the commutation ticket. Here commutation means an
exchange of one thing for another, especially if the new thing is a
consolidation or reduction of the old. That is what the commutation ticket
did: it exchanged individual tickets for a collective one at a lower price.
The holder of such a ticket, being involved in the commutation, was thus
called a commuter. Here is the Atlantic Monthly writing about railroads in
1865: "Two or three may be styled commuters' roads, running chiefly for the
accommodation of city business-men with suburban residences."
   In that statement we already see the modern sense of commuter, connected
with a lifestyle rather than a kind of ticket. Soon it no longer made a
difference whether the person held a commutation ticket, only where the
person lived and worked. A commuter could ride a trolley, subway, cable car,
or ferry as well as a train. In the twentieth century the commuter turned to
the bus and automobile. While public transportation still carried commuters,
the modern image of the commuter has become the lone driver on the freeway
(1930) or expressway (1944) or interstate (1968), enduring gapers' blocks and
gridlock (1980), talking on a cell phone (1984) to drive-time talk radio

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